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Microsoft Business Solutions, Inc. — Great Plains Standard

From the September 2005 Review of Mid-Range
Accounting Software

Microsoft Great Plains offers a comprehensive accounting and business management
system that is scalable to nearly any size business. However, it excels at the
mid-market level, providing advanced control over financial accounting, sales,
inventory, e-commerce, customer relationship management, manufacturing, job-costing,
retail and human resources. The highly customizable system is offered in modules
that are available individually or as bundles geared toward specific industry
needs. Core financial modules include a GL, AP and AR, as well as cash flow
management and bank reporting and reconciliation.

Great Plains is offered through Microsoft resellers who provide sales, installation
and training support, and therefore have control over exact pricing. The approximate
cost for a one-user license that includes the core financial modules with bank
reconciliation, sales order processing, inventory and the system manager is
$6,500. A similarly featured five-seat license is about $9,500.

The Great Plains interface looks and operates much like Microsoft Outlook, with
list-based navigation and streamlined menus. It opens within a well-designed
and functional window that utilizes large intuitive icons and pull-down menus
for accessing modules and primary system functions such as transactions, performing
queries, reporting and setting system security and preferences The program prominently
displays the name of the company whose files are being worked in along with
user information. Users also have the option of displaying an Explorer folder
tree as a means of ad hoc reporting and data retrieval.

Data information and entry screens appear in subwindows and provide lookup
buttons and note attachment capabilities as well as scroll selection lists for
assigning account numbers, item types and other stored data. These screens also
provide a row of buttons across the bottom for accessing various tasks related
to the module in which you’re working. For instance, within an inventory
item’s information screen, the system shows all information related to
that item, as well as buttons for purchasing, vendors, historical data, kits,
quantity, pricing and other options. Posting of transactions is facilitated
by a Transactions icon on the toolbar that jumps directly to an input screen,
allowing the selection of the type of transaction along with entry of additional
information about the transaction. All such screens maintain a consistent interface.

The program is very customizable, with the ability to determine interface
components such as a shortcuts menu and selection of which fields are displayed
on data-entry screens, with the ability to rename fields. Great Plains includes
how-to screens and wizards to assist in configuring the GL, including setting
up default entries and preferences, and setting up single and divisional retained
earnings accounts. The program also includes several other guides and wizards
to assist with various tasks.

Great Plains includes substantial security options that enable task-level user
rights, user groups, departmental security and other options. The system allows
copying, voiding, deleting and correcting of transactions while an audit trail
maintains system integrity with a history of transactions and system changes.
Posted journal entries can be corrected by backing out of the originating entry
and making the necessary adjustments to a copy of the original entry, with the
audit trail still tracking all changes.

The program’s financial applications support multiple currencies and
adhere to U.S. and European GAAP, and provide additional tools that enable analysis
of critical financial information. The inventory system in Great Plains offers
great depth. While providing the basic ability to track by serial and lot number
and LIFO, FIFO and average costing, the system also helps manage distribution
and manufacturing processes by allowing tracking of items by serial or lot number,
which then shows where and when that item appeared in bills of materials, customer
orders or other transactions. It also allows setting up of inventory classes,
kit items and substitute items. Additionally, the system handles multiple pricing
scenarios by SKU, customer and timeframe. Automatic allocation of inventory
items can be made from sales orders and invoices. Available add-ons enable barcoding
and enhanced e-commerce integration with the system.

Great Plains thoroughly integrates with Microsoft Excel and Word, with the ability
to export reports to Excel pivot tables with just a few clicks, or use “analysis
cubes” in Excel to enhance data analysis. The program can also export
to a variety of other formats, including ASCII, XML and HTML, which lets users
view budgeting, planning and reporting through a web browser. Data can also
be imported from many third-party products.

Through the system’s FRx analytics capabilities, users can easily create
customized financial reports and balance sheets, as well as “report books”
that incorporate Excel charts and graphs, PowerPoint presentations and Word
files. Books can either be distributed via e-mail or shared via the Web. Additionally,
more than 200 pre-built reports, invoices and lists are available, all of which
can be customized or adapted to business needs and are available to preview
prior to printing.

The internal help utility is excellent, with tutorials, how-tos, context-sensitive
help, right-click menus and a fully searchable database of help documentation.
Microsoft also provides an extensive online resource system and user forums.
Several support plans are available, ranging from pay-as-you-go Flex Support
to comprehensive unlimited support. Most technical assistance and training,
however, will likely be handled by a local Microsoft Certified Partner or reseller.

Great Plains offers an exhaustingly comprehensive business accounting suite
that is perhaps more accurately described as a mid-market ERP (enterprise resource
planning) system, providing integrated controls over financial management, distribution
and supply chain management, manufacturing, retail, HR, payroll and e-commerce.
It can even be specially designed for non-profit and public sector accounting

2005 Overall Rating — 5 Stars